When you’re going through a breakup, or even an intense fight with your romantic partner, it can feel like a catastrophe. Your work suffers, you’re moody, you’re appetite and sleep patterns are out of whack. You may feel a deep sense of loss or grief, as if you are losing a part of yourself. In short, relationship issues can easily trigger a bout of depression.
Your body produces a chemical called serotonin. (Many common anti-depressants work by boosting serotonin.) Serotonin does a lot of things, like regulate sleep and appetite, manage energy and focus, and stabilize moods. But serotonin is also the “relationship helper.” It allows you to experience a deep emotional bond with your partner, and helps you look past their annoying habits. Serotonin helps you move forward from conflicts so you don’t get stuck in a loop, going round and round about the same longstanding issues. When your serotonin is significantly depleted, living with just about anyone can seem almost unbearable.
Fighting with your partner reduces your body’s serotonin. And it’s a vicious cycle. The more you fight, the lower your serotonin. The lower your serotonin, the less compassion you feel for your partner. Depression and relationship issues are so closely tied, it can be difficult to distinguish the “chicken” from the “egg.” If you feel somehow stuck in your relationship, ask yourself if you might be depressed. By the same token, if you’re struggling with depression, ask yourself if this might be affecting your relationship. I’ve seen many couples over the years avoid a seemingly inevitable divorce by treating depression. At the same time, I’ve seen long-term couples break up because one or both members was unable/unwilling to recognize and treat this common mood disorder.
Whether your serotonin is low because of relationship stress, depression, or some combination of the two, here are some things that help:
- healthy eating
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.